I’d like to thank the principal of the Cumberland Middle School in Virginia for bringing Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina, to my attention. You see, even though I’m a youth services librarian who loves to read, not every worthwhile book ends up on my radar. Plus, I’m on a book committee, so you know how it is with stacks of books and deadlines and all. I don’t have time to read every old YA book, you know? But, when I heard that that this Virginia principal had barred author Meg Medina from coming to speak to the kids at Cumberland Middle school, I knew I had to read this book.
I mean, first of all. It has “ass” in the title, and everybody knows I love a good cuss word.
Second, every time a person tries to get people to not read a certain book, you know it’s gotta be good right? Think of all the great censored and challenged books…To Kill a Mockingbird…The Bluest Eye…A Wrinkle in Time…I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings…Captain Underpants. I mean, the ALA’s list of most frequently challenged titles is pretty much a “must read” list for any living human being.
So, thanks, grown-ups at Cumberland Middle School! I have some new reading material, and I’m really liking it so far. I might not have otherwise noticed it, what with my busy schedule and all, but I’m really glad to have found such a great book.
But, to be fair, I get what you’re doing by canceling Meg Medina’s visit to your school. I mean, I’m a 35 year old librarian. My impressionable days are long over and I’m certainly not some little middle school kid, you know? I can see why you wouldn’t want your kids reading this book. Your superintendent, Amy Giffin, is right when she says that the book “seemed to address high school and inner city.” Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass does take place in Queens, one of the most ethnically diverse places on Earth. Why would you want a bunch of kids in rural Virginia reading about those inner city (read: non-white) kids? What do these kids have to do with them? I mean, why even bother learning about other kinds of people and exposing yourself to new experiences? The protagonist of Yaqui Delgado is named Piddy Sanchez. Sanchez? What is that? Latino? Inner city, indeed. I totally agree. We should only read about characters that are exactly like ourselves. I truly believe that. That’s why I only read A Confederacy of Dunces. Non-stop.
Next, the reviews of this book are the PITS! I was reading them and I was like, hold up! You reviewers are being way harsh! Somebody worked hard on this novel! No need to get all personal! For instance, Kirkus called Yaqui Delgado “a nuanced, heart-wrenching and ultimately empowering story.” Horn Book said that “teens will identify with Piddy’s struggle” and those wackos at Common Sense Media said that this book “should be taught in schools, read by counselors and parents, and used as a tool to discuss the importance of finding your voice, telling the truth and asking for help.” The people have spoken, and Meg Medina’s newest title is clearly a hack job. Yikes! Keep the kids away from cheap, trashy literature!
And another thing: Isn’t this book about bullying? What kind of middle schooler is concerned with bullying? Is that even a thing they even think about? Couldn’t they read a book about a real hot button issue? Talk about unrelatable.
And last, I get it Cumberland Middle School. If I were you, I wouldn’t want my kids all excited about books. If Meg Medina came to your school and talked about her book, your kid might want to actually read it. And then, next thing you know, they read the book, they like it, and suddenly they want to read other books. It’s all, “Mom, can we go to the library?” or “Dad, I want a Barnes and Noble giftcard for my birthday!” Before you know it, they’re hanging out in their rooms reading books instead of texting or twerking or getting pregnant or building a meth lab or whatever it is that teens do. Reading for pleasure has been proven to increase self-esteem and confidence and help kids score higher on achievement tests. Who wants that?
But seriously, all sarcasm aside (and I realize that was quite a dose), this kind of news breaks my heart. Yes, the more intellectually curious students of Cumberland Middle School will seek out Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass on their own (you know they will. Don’t even try to stop them. The smart, outside-the-box thinkers always find a way), but what about the other children? What about the children who haven’t found a book that they’re excited about? What if they never find that book? Maybe Yaqui Delgado won’t be the book. Maybe it will. But you’re denying the children of your school the opportunity to hear an award winning author speak. Maybe the talk would encourage them to start writing their own book. Maybe it would encourage them to want to travel the world. Maybe it would help them to find words to speak up about the bullying they’re facing. Who knows what kinds of amazing thoughts this author and book can inspire?
You’ll never know, though. Because instead of opening the door to opportunity, you’ve closed it to all the wonderful possibilities.
And right around Banned Books Week, too. Come on, you guys.
~Love and Libraries, Ingrid